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Paris you are one of a kind!

Community Highlights Europe Paris you are one of a kind!

I don't think I could ever get sick of Paris. The streets of beautiful old 5 story terrace housing, the brasseries with people sitting facing out onto the street, the impeccable gardens, the insanely good pastries, the accent (I was never one for French accents before but I am now!) and did I mention the pastries! Even the hustle is intoxicating; people are constantly moving and the jammed streets make you wonder how anybody with a car actually gets anywhere.

Typical Parisian street. Tall terrace houses near St Michel.

Typical Parisian street. Tall terrace houses near St Michel.


The streets of St Germain. Next time I would try and stay in this arrondissement. Both here and Marais have the best little streets to get lost in - boutiques, cafes, patisseries, small independent art galleries, everything that makes Paris one of a kind - voila!

The streets of St Germain. Next time I would try and stay in this arrondissement. Both here and Marais have the best little streets to get lost in - boutiques, cafes, patisseries, small independent art galleries, everything that makes Paris one of a kind - voila!

I've spent 4 whole days here and I already can't wait to come back and discover more. I'm no history buff but I really enjoyed learning the history of this amazing city - guess that means I'm getting old right? From learning the weird habits (he only took 5 showers in his whole life, loved his calves and insisted that everyone walk a certain way through his gardens) and great arrogance of King Louis XIV in Versailles, to seeing where Van Gogh's favourite prostitute (the one he cut his ear lobe off for) worked in Montmartre (now a cafe, bit gross!), I have learnt a lot. I found out that the expression on Mona Lisa's face in the infamous painting by da Vinci is believed to represent the middle ground between being happy and sad. She was mourning the loss of her daughter and da Vinci sent court jesters to try and lift her mood. The result - the expression she wears in the painting. I also saw Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, and learnt that Henry IV had to put a tax on wine in order to build it. After it was built, he threw a massive party where he had an artist sculpt his friends drunk faces onto the bridge. For all this new quiz night ammunition (we'll totally win next time Adrian and Ness) I must thank Sandemans New Europe tours who were fantastic. The tours, which run daily, were cheap and the guides were interesting and enthusiastic - it was a great way to see and learn about Paris! I highly recommend them.

Since I'm new to the blogging world, I think I'll try to summarise each city I visit in 3 ways: I'll outline what surprised me, what challenged me and what I loved/best bits. Here goes!

Surprise, surprise...

Montmartre - what a neighbourhood! Sure it's got a colourful past and is still a bit sketchy at night but there is so much happening in this neighbourhood. The atmosphere here is awesome - the hills, the cobbled streets, the street art, the food and the remnants of artists gone by bring this area to life. Maybe it's the fact that cabaret is still alive and well here or maybe it's that this area simply oozes and encourages creativity and freedom of expression; whatever it is people are just more laid back in this part of Paris. Back in the day, Montmartre wasn't actually classified to be part of Paris itself. Unlike now, back then it was on the outskirts of the city. As a result, people living in this area weren't required to pay taxes which in turn attracted a lot of struggling artists to Montmartre. Since then it has been the hub for entertainment (not all of it is dirty) and culture in the city. It's a great area to people watch and Sacre-Coeur basilica is just WOW, but more on that shortly.

Left: Local artists in Montmartre. Top right: the pink building used to be a brothel. The woman Van Gogh believed to be 'his' lover worked here. Bottom right: the last remaining vineyard in Paris. Each October they harvest the grapes and make wine. Apparently the wine the grapes produce is revolting but since Parisian wine is so rare bottles of it sell for thousands of euros. They also throw a big street party in Montmartre during the harvest - Paris in October is now on my bucket list!

Left: Local artists in Montmartre. Top right: the pink building used to be a brothel. The woman Van Gogh believed to be 'his' lover worked here. Bottom right: the last remaining vineyard in Paris. Each October they harvest the grapes and make wine. Apparently the wine the grapes produce is revolting but since Parisian wine is so rare bottles of it sell for thousands of euros. They also throw a big street party in Montmartre during the harvest - Paris in October is now on my bucket list!

Things to watch out for

Parisian people aren't known to be the friendliest. In saying that most of the people I came across were really nice. I've heard French people don't like to work (who does really?); work makes them cranky so if they are rude when they serve you in a shop or at the train station don't take it personally. One thing that is annoying is that people don't wait for you to get off the train before they get on. They don't give way even when they're walking - I'm carrying a suitcase up a hill and you walk straight towards me and make me move for you, um am I invisible? It's as annoying as someone walking in front of you when you're pushing the II machine (sorry non radiographers). First world complaint I know but I had to think of something. Also be aware of pickpockets and ignore the gypsies and hawkers selling tacky Eiffel Tower key rings at every major tourist attraction.

The best bits

Aside from just wandering around this stunning city I loved Sacre-Coeur, Musee D'Orsay , Versailles and the Marais area. Sacre-Coeur is in Montmartre, it sits at the highest point in the city. It's white because the stone used to build it contains caltrate. Caltrate is released every time it rains, acting to self-clean the building. It's so beautiful inside; even though I'm not religious, I love cathedrals and this one is up there as one of my favourites.

Sacre-Coeur from behind and the view of Paris from the front of the basilica.

Sacre-Coeur from behind and the view of Paris from the front of the basilica.

Musee D'Orsay is another impressive building in itself. It contains art from all eras but it's collection of pieces by the impressionists - the likes of Renoir and Monet is really something to see. Again I'm not a great art lover but I enjoyed this, plus I got in for free with my British passport - winning! There is also a great view of the city from the 5th floor.

As I mentioned before if you come to Paris make sure you spend some time getting lost in the Marais neighbourhood. It's the old Jewish district and is the maze of streets, hidden gardens and cafes. Buy a kofta then wander to one of the patisseries for cakes that look too perfect to eat :)

Final tip: learn some French before you come to Paris. I wish I had learnt a bit more before I arrived. I always feel awkward and embarrassed when I can't speak/pronounce at least some of basics when I'm in a foreign country. Buy a phrase book, download duolingo or google translate and practice, it's all part of the experience.

I start my tour tonight. Looking forward to visiting the south of France and Spain in the next couple of weeks :)

This featured blog entry was written by Fi M from the blog For the love of getting lost!.
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By Fi M

Posted Sat, May 24, 2014 | France | Comments